It's the Animal Kingdom Smack Down Edition

Greetings and welcome to the Animal Kingdom Smack Down Edition of You Are What You Read. No edition next week because I am taking the week off. Soldier on People! It’s going to be fine. See you in a bit.

This week the news seems to have been filled with animals running amok. It’s been a while since that has happened. Shall we take a gander at what the animal Kingdom has been up to since we last checked in with them?

Our neighbors to the north have a rather ostentatious problem. It would seem a former resident in the neighborhood of Surrey, British Columbia took it upon himself to recreationally farm, of all things, peacocks. He has since moved away but seemingly forgot to take his pets with him. Now their descendants delight in terrorizing the humans in residence. One family can no longer use the front door to their home because a peacock family has decided to use the porch as THEIR home. The birds scream in the night and now they are attacking the residents in their cars. It appears that when the birds see their reflection in car doors, think that it’s another peacock and go after the imagined rival. A group of peacocks is called ostentation. Why? I haven’t a clue. But it is. Oh, and the only known predators for peacocks are, oddly, leopards. Here’s hoping that no one decides to import them to deal with things. That would be messy. You can read all about that on USA Today.

And then who among us wasn’t pondering just why a raccoon would take it upon her Litter-Loving-Self to scale the 15th tallest building in St. Paul. But this one did and captivated a city with its death defying climb. Whatever. She lived to make it to the roof where a Have-A-Heart trap baited with cat food and water was waiting for her. She has since been relocated to the burbs where she will now be turning over garbage cans, eating trash, and just generally being a menace. Until! She crosses the road a tad too slowly one night after an epic feast on spoiled food fit only for the dumpster which would kill us mere mortals, but not her, because she has some sort of evil super power until she doesn’t and then becomes a teachable moment for some poor kid being driven to camp the next morning. “Yes, Monica. That dead thing by the road is very sad but everything dies. EVERYTHING. Now don’t forget your lunch and have a nice time today. Mummy will pick you up at 3.” You can read about the Climbing Garbage Panda at The New York Times. By the way, a group of raccoons is called a gaze or just some raccoons.

And finally this week, we have Achilles the Psychic Cat. Achilles lives in St. Petersburg, Russia in the basement of the Hermitage Museum where he is not alone. There are 70-80 other cats living with him to help control the Rodent Situation which seems like a lot of cat but the Hermitage is pretty big. This would totally qualify as a Clowder of Cat. Anyway, in a big deal press conference in anticipation of the premier match of the World Cup, Achilles was offered two bowls of food on Wednesday. One was festooned with the colors of the Russian flag and the other was just a bowl of cat food. Achilles chose the bowl with the festooned in the colors of his country. Museum veterinarian Anna Kondratyeva told The Associated Press that Achilles "loves his motherland and couldn't vote otherwise." Um. Ok. Shudders. Turns out Achilles was right and Russia blew out Saudi Arabia 5-0. You can read about that on the NPR website should you choose to.

This week we have a short story and a longer one a whole mess of Sci-Fi.

Let us begin!

J Rae is BACK and here is what she has been up to. “Hiya! I snorted. I cackled. I shed a single tear. It prevented me from an otherwise monotonous ten hour train ride. David Sedaris has done it again. Calypso, his latest collection of short stories, is mostly centered in his family beach home. As always, he brings his snarky wit and unimaginable tales to us served in short chapters. I describe his books like candy—you can’t just eat/read one! From his INSANE shopping ventures to feeding a tumor to a turtle, you cannot help yourself from giggling while turning the pages. Perfect anytime but preferable when you need to be cheered up!”

The Always Delightful Pat S. is here with her ringing endorsement of my favorite book of the summer Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce. “Set in London during WWII, specifically, The Blitz. Young Emmaline Lake is sharing a flat with her best friend Bunty whilst supporting the war effort through volunteer work at the Auxiliary Fire Service. But her true goal is to be a LADY War Correspondent. After answering a job ad at The London Evening Chronicle, Emmaline finds herself the assistant to the famous advice columnist, Mrs. Bird. Yet Mrs. Bird refuses to answer any letters dealing with UNPLEASANTNESS: unfaithful boyfriends, lonely girlfriends, sad mothers with evacuated children. But Emmaline steps up to the plate and secretly begins doling out advice to all of the Mrs. Bird rejects. All of this occurs as Emmaline and Bunty are attracting boyfriends of their own and dodging bombs. Filled with a cast of appealing oddballs demonstrating untapped generosity and kindness in extraordinary times, this book just makes you feel good.”

Brit has a LOT this week. Fasten those seatbelts, People! “Look, Jen. I sobbed when David Bowie died. I have been a fan since my childhood, and found a kind of kinship with him through my formative years. As such, Strange Stars is one of my most anticipated books of the year. Inspired by the Apollo program, the late 60s through the 70s saw the creation of some of the most incredible Science Fiction we’ve ever known: Star Trek debuted on TV and Frank Herbert’s Dune won the Hugo Award in 1966; Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey opened in 1968; Philip K. Dick published Do Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep and John Brunner won a Hugo with Stand on Zanzibar in 1969. The Space Race and hippie counterculture created an excitement about the unknown, a desire to explore…and it begged to be expressed.

Science Fiction, though it had been around for nearly 150 years, was suddenly swept into a larger cultural conversation and blasted its way into the songwriting minds of folks like Jimi Hendrix, Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd), David Crosby (The Byrds), and Paul Kantner (Jefferson Airplane). But the one musician who stands far above the others when we think of the intersection of Science Fiction and Popular Music was a young man who spent his teen and early adult years devouring Sci-Fi in all forms – David Jones, the man who would eventually fall to Earth. Bowie personified Science Fiction in music unlike any other musician of the time (or since). From watching Doctor Who with its radiophonic sound effects and background music, to reading every Clarke and Heinlein story he could get his hands on, to launching himself into the rapidly expanding universe that was society and arts in the 1970s, Bowie was a veritable colonizer of Sci-Fi. Songs like “Space Oddity,” “Starman,” and “Life on Mars” only scratch the surface of his interest.

This book is for anybody who perks up when the guitar, bass, and snare give way to Bowie’s calm and instructive Ground Control to Major Tom. The amount of pop culture history packed into these 215 pages is incredible. You could read this ten times and find something new each time. Not to mention you’ll create several nice lists of books to read, movies to watch, and albums to listen to as you read. My personal goal after this book is to read the Hugo winning novels from 1966-1980 in order and to create a playlist of every song or album mentioned in the text to track the differences in the way the plots started to change, and the way music began to morph. Take your protein pills and put your helmet on – this book is quite a ride.”

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